Spain Guide



Spanish Property

Using a good, independent lawyer to buy property in Spain is an absolute must. Not all owners would agree and many have successfully completed a Spanish property purchase without a lawyer and without any hitches. But thousands of others have come a cropper and in many cases have lost their life's savings because they tried to save a few hundred pounds on legal fees.

There are key differences in the property laws, taxes and administrative procedures in Spain which are hard to fathom even for those of us who have been living here for years.

Maybe it's the strong sun; maybe it's the cheap wine. Whatever the reason, many a foolish foreigner has lived to regret buying a Spanish property without the benefit of professional legal advice when they would never have dreamt of doing such a thing in their native land (where they understand the language and culture).

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During the 1980s "run for the sun" more than half the foreigners buying property in Spain failed to use a solicitor. And the figure is still thought to be around 20% so it's hardly surprising that so many dreams turn into horror stories.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that an estate agent will do the legal checks for you that your own lawyer will. And be wary of taking the recommendation of an estate agent when it comes to legal advice the lawyer they recommend may be a perfectly good one but if you're using an agent it's a good idea to hire a lawyer who's completely independent of that agent.

It's rare, though not impossible, to find an English lawyer practising in Spain but there are law firms in England and other European countries which specialise in Spanish property law.

There are plenty of excellent Spanish lawyers and many of them in the popular ex pat areas speak perfect English. You'll find many of them advertising in the English language press. But a far better route to a good lawyer is the golden rule of asking around. Ask friends, neighbours, people in local clubs and restaurants where your fellow countrymen meet. Listen to their experiences, recommendations.and warnings.

The local consulate may be able to provide you with a list of English speaking lawyers in your area but they won't actually recommend a lawyer to you.

It's a good idea to find a good lawyer who's based in the area where you want to buy. He or she will probably be well in with the local notario (notary public) and will be able to play the local system to speed your purchase through as quickly as practically possible. He or she is also likely to be aware of any drawbacks involved in purchasing in your chosen area even before the essential local searches are done.

Generally, lawyers' fees are around 1% of the purchase price but if unforeseen complications arise you'll be charged more so make sure you agree in writing at the outset exactly what's included in the basic fee.

Standard services should include checking that the property is legal and registered, establishing that the alleged owner is who he says he is and that he has the right to sell the property and that the house doesn't have any outstanding debts attached to it. It's important to remember that in Spain, all debts relating to a house stay with that house (regardless of a change of ownership).